Learn how women designers are investing in their growth as leaders
In a world where most of us are managing burnout at one level or another, five thriving women design leaders tell us what they do to continue growing in their roles.
Seowon Bang RGD, Senior Designer, eBay: I am an avid learner in the personal development world and I'm committed to harnessing the power of mindset and thought work because I believe that to lead and inspire others, you must first understand how the brain works and what makes it tick. An important realization that comes out of this mode of learning is that every one of us is designed differently and also that we have been conditioned by society and external influences in various ways. Below are some of my recommendations to get you started on your personal development journey:
Podcast: Unf*ck Your Brain with Kara Loewentheil is an excellent resource for mindset work. Kara is a coach with a strong intersectional feminist lens offering tons of advice on how to decondition yourself from patriarchal rules and limiting beliefs
Book: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle was a book recommended to me by one of my favourite mentors, who was also my manager. He would quote from the book often and when he was leaving the company he left his copy for me. This book had been a life changer truly, helping me recognize the ego and teaching me how to differentiate myself from the stories my brain cooks up.
Practice: I like to consult my tarot deck when I run into a roadblock. For me tarot isn't a fortune teller but more a tool for introspection and clarity, based on visual symbols and codified language. You can use whatever tools work for you, whether it's meditation or journaling or other spiritual practices. If you use them as a lens for focusing your intention, you can gain amazing insights into how you view a particular situation in your life.
I dedicate time to read and research on an on-going basis — not just on the topic of good leadership, but also on company culture, trends in employment and best practices in human resources, in and outside of our sector. Strategy Online, Fast Company and even the business section of The Globe & Mail are good sources. Consult, compare and share intel with colleagues and peers. Reflect on those who you respected in past jobs. What was it about their leadership style that drew that respect? Transparency and approachability were among the traits I valued. An honest and frequent reflection of your own practice ensures you're leading the best way possible.
As a design leader, I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to grow my knowledge and explore different perspectives. Each week, I listen to podcasts and read a few chapters of various books written by authors who inspire me. At the moment, I’m enjoying Adam Grant’s two podcasts: WorkLife and Re:Thinking. Adam is an organizational psychologist who shares different guest perspectives on managing a balanced work-life – spanning many professions, not just design. Both podcasts offer insightful, actionable advice that I often use in work and life scenarios. I’m also reading Leading from Anywhere: The Essential Guide to Managing Remote Teams by David Burkus – a great resource on remote team management.
Kathleen Scott RGD, Creative Strategy Team Lead, Bruce Power: For me, being a good leader of a creative team means being open to change and continuous learning. Something I've found to be valuable for my own leadership growth and education has been volunteering. I've worked for the same company for many years and volunteering has been an opportunity to see how other organizations operate and navigate through challenges. Whether working on a small initiative or chairing a committee, it's a great way to observe other leadership styles and learn new skills that are transferable to your day job. I also like to listen to podcasts and one that's been inspiring me lately is Second Life Podcast. The podcast profiles successful, creative women who talk about their career paths and touch on lessons they've learned along the way.
Mentorship has been really transformative in my understanding of how to view my business and work from a leadership role. A great mentor can provide insight and experience and help identify pitfalls in a personalized and professional way. They have provided amazing resources including books, articles, tools, etc. For example, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership by Steven B. Sample was recommended to me by my mentor. These mentors have also recognized my current successes which was a really nice confidence boost to feel I was on the right track. Even a few hours of discussion can really help you refocus and get energized. It wasn’t an area I had focused on much before but has made a really big difference in how I look at my growth professionally. Don't be afraid to extend your network and get outside of your comfort zone. Follow up with people who inspire you with their actions and who challenge you in a good way. I have made some amazing connections through volunteering on executive boards with people driven to better their community.